« AnteriorContinuar »
BY C. H. SPURGEON. IF the ungrateful man were asked to count up his great mercies, he would I mention two or three things, and fancy that he had completed the catalogue. The most of us, in our ordinary moods, would not require a ream of letterpaper to write out what we carelessly conceive to be a comprehensive and extended list. Now, this comes of our forgetfulness and shallow understanding, and will, perhaps, never be remedied till all our faculties are perfectly developed and sanctified, as they will be in the land of the perfected. When we are a little awakened, it is astonishing how the area of our mercies is increased in the estimation of our judgment; the eye is cleared with a few briny tears, and straightway it sees a hundred objects which it observed not before. To the soul chastened by divine correction, mercies swarm and teem where aforetime there seemed but few.
Take note of this, reader. I jot it down while I am newly escaped from the chamber of affliction, and the impression is fresh on me: it is a great mercy to be able to change sides when lying in bed. Did I see you smile? I meant no pleasantry, but intended to write a sober, serious sentence. Did you ever lie a week on one side ? Did you ever try to turn, and find yourself quite helpless ? Did others lift you, and by their kindness only reveal to you the miserable fact that they must lift you back again at once into the old position, for bad as it was, it was preferable to any other? Do not smile again, but listen while I add-it is a great mercy to get one hour's sleep at night. You go to bed, and never reckon upon opening your eyes again till your seven or eight hours are over, but some of us know what it is, night after night, to long for slumber and find it not. O how sweet has an hour's sleep been when it has interposed between long stretches of pain, like a span of heaven's blue between the masses of thundercloud! We have blessed God more for those dear moments of repose than for whole weeks of prosperity.
We are not about to continue our enumeration of choice and precious mercies at any length, for having once introduced the reader to a Christian invalid, we have placed him under the tuition of one who can continue the blessed schedule of mercy indefinitely; and if the record of one sick chamber should be all rehearsed, the next, if tenanted by a gracious sufferer, would, with sweet variations, prolong the strain. What a mercy have I felt it to have only one knee tortured at a time! What a blessing to be able to put the foot on the ground again, if but for a minute! What a still greater mercy to be able to get from the bed to a chair and back again !
What folly it is, however, to put down a few of these benefits selected from so many more! it is as though we would catalogue the cattle on a thousand hills, or enumerate the waves of ocean. We pick and cull a few mercies; but on what principle ?, Is it not a childish, vain, and ignorant feeling which prompts our selection ? We call those things mercies which please us, ease us, suit our wants, and fall in with our cravings. Truly they are so, but not less gracious are those benefits which cross us, pain us, and lay us low. The tender love which chastises us, the gentle kindness which bruises us, the fond affection which crushes us to the ground-these we do not so readily recount; yet is there as much of divine love in a smart as in a sweet, as great a depth of tenderness in buffeting as in consoling. We must count our crosses, diseases, and pains, if we would number up our blessings. Doubtless it is a mercy to be spared affliction, but he would be a wise man who should tell which of the two was the greater boon,—to be for the present without chastisement or to be chastened? We judge that in either case “It is well" with the righteous, but we will not have a word said to the disparagement of affliction. Granted that the cross is very bitter, we maintain with equal confidence that it is also very sweet
We have a cloud of mercies around us as well as a cloud of witnesses. As the meadow is besprent with a thousand gay flowers, and we tread upon them without attempting to count them, even thus is it with our life in Christ Jesus : it is mercy, all mercy-mercy too great for reckoning. Our life is a wood, wherein are tangled thorns; but listen a moment! Is it not full of sweet songbirds, akin to those of Paradise ? God is good to us at all points, and greatly good too. There is no royal road to learning, but there is a royal road to heaven-a causeway of lovingkindness, paved with crystal blocks of grace, all of pure gold, like unto transparent glass. In the wilderness a highway has been made straight for the chosen people: every valley has been exalted, and every mountain and hill laid low. "How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God ! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand."
BY THE REV. G. D. B. PEPPER, PROFESSOR IN NEWTON THEOLOGICAL INSTITUTE.
We extract this from that valuable volume entitled “Madison Avenue Lectures." The Lecturer's first point is that Christ instituted for his followers an external right called Baptism : he then advances to the proposition that Christ instituted the rite as a permanent, perpetual ordinance; he then shows that water was essential to the rite. So far nearly all Christians are agreed, and we therefore commence our extract with his declaration that the rite-already proved to have been divinely instituted (and that as a perpetual ordinance), as originally given was the person's immersion in water. We issue this extract, not at all in the spirit of controversy, but because, as Editor of this magazine, as well as a Christian minister, we feel in duty bound to give a reason for our faith and practice. It will at least be interesting to Pædobaptists to know some of the grounds on which we stand.-C. H. S.] 66TT remains now to prove, that immersion was also originally essential to
1 baptism. This is not to say, that it was or is essential to salvation, but only, as the use of water was one constituent of the rite, so also its use by immersion was the second constituent, like the first, essential, inseparable, and indispensable. And here it will at once occur to every mind, that immersion is only a mode of using water. I do not say a mode of applying it, for it can hardly be said to be applied, except when taken and either sprinkled or poured upon the person. The phrase, ' mode of application,' has arisen from another practice than that of the original Christian baptism. Still, though this phraseölogy, which has sometimes been made to play no unimportant part in so-called argument upon this theme, be disallowed as inaccurate, it is yet true, and must be conceded, that immersion is only a mode of using or employing water. But, as soon as this is conceded, there arises the question, how can mere mode, or manner, be essential to a thing, and one of its constituents? Does not this involve an absurdity and self-contradiction? With great energy and frequency this question has been answered in the affirmative; and this answer has been made the basis, sometimes of pity for Baptist blindness, and sometimes of indignation at Baptist bigotry. If there really is absurdity and self-contradiction necessarily involved in making mode constitute in part the essence of a thing, the proposition which I have promised to prove is self-destructive, admitting neither confirmation nor refutation. But it does not involve a self-contradiction.
It is therefore not self-destructive. And it does admit of confirmation. It does · not involve any absurdity, for mode or form is not necessarily without character, and may be itself the thing prescribed. But, if the thing prescribed is in whole or in part a form, then surely of that thing form belongs to the essence. Take, for example, the signal-service, by which the movements of a fleet are determined and the issues of battle decided. If the code prescribes that a flag of a given form shall have a given meaning, is the form nothing? Is the form non-essential? Let the signal officer disregard the form, and display a flag of . different pattern! It was only form that he disregarded, but he has caused disaster. Or, let the law prescribe that a given motion of the flag.shall be understood to mean a given thing. That is but a mode of using the flag. Does it, therefore, not belong to the essence of the signal? It is the signal. The mode is the thing. So a nod of the head, and a shake of the head, are each only a way, or mode of its use, but the child is not long in learning that they are by no means interchangeable. It is, therefore, not random talk to call immersion essential to the external rite known as baptism; nor is it a bewilderment of the logical faculty to undertake to prove the same.
“There are two separate points to be established. The first is, that IN ADMINISTERING THE RITE, IMMERSION WAS ORIGINALLY PRACTISED; and the second, that thIS IMMERSION WAS ITSELF OF THE ESSENCE OF THE RITE And here, also, before hearing the more direct evidence, one or two thoughts will suggest themselves, which ought not to be wholly without influence. One of these is, that in the person's immersion, and immediate consequent emersion, there is an obvious natural fitness to body forth forcibly to the eye vital truth connected with the spiritual birth. If this change were only an inward cleansing, without reference to Jesus Christ, and quite independent of any known facts in his history, the mere symbol of purification might be thought to cover the whole ground. But there are these two grand facts—the Saviour's sacrificial death, the Saviour's triumphal resurrection. The genuine Christian's consciousness can never suffer these to fall into the back ground in his remembrance of the new birth. He becomes a new creature, not in his solitary separate self, but in Christ Jesus, the crucified and risen. To these external facts correspond the two chief phases of his inward experience. He dies to self, to the world, to sin; he rises in newness of life, to holiness and to God, in Jesus Christ. Now, both these outward facts in our divine Lord's life, and both these corresponding facts in the soul's own inward experience, are beautifully and forcefully expressed by immersion and emersion. Neither of them is even hinted at by the simple symbol of purity. Is it not as easy for the Christian heart to conceive, that a rite which divine wisdom should institute to express the new birth, would leave unnoticed the idea of purity, as that it would wholly pass by these other sublime verities? Another thought is, that in a rite whose design it was to express silently to the eye invisible realities, the mode of using the element was a feature of too much prominence to be without siguificance. It would be quite as natural to believe the element destitute of meaning. How striking this circumstance of mode! How diverse and unlike the different possible modes! What scope for the introduction of confusion, and the loss of original unity, if the mode had been declared valueless! Such thoughts as these ought not to be without force in our examination of testimony.
In confirmation of our first point, namely, that immersion, and that only, was originally practised, stands at the beginning the undeniable fact, that the word baptism in all its other uses means immersion. Sane and intelligent men, when soberly discoursing in a language with which they are perfectly familiar, are accustomed to use words in their proper and established meanings. An English writer, attempting in good faith to describe to his readers the act of crying, would not invariably use the word laugh. At least the presumption would be, that he meant what he said. He who denied would have to make good his denial, or stultify himself. Still stronger is the case when several persons, equally intelligent, agree in describing the same familiar act by the same familiar word. If ten witnesses, independent and trustworthy, were to relate the destruction of a certain city by a great fire, could any thing be more preposterous than the assertion, that, in fact, it was a flood which they intended? And how would the case be still strengthened, if different witnesses were speaking under
Divine inspiration, describing some act of great religious import, and enjoining it upon others as a duty for them solemnly to perform. Can language describe the boldness which, without convincing proof, would deny to a term, uniformly used under such circumstances, its fixed meaning, and affix to it an opposite signification ? Now, the Greek language has a word which means to immerse. The most exhaustive and critical examination of its use in all other known connections has repeatedly been made, but not an instance has been found where it could be made to appear, that it did not involve the idea of immersion. It holds in the Greek exactly the same place that the word immersion holds in the English. Even the primary word from which it is derived, is proved to have with equal uniformity the conception of dipping, or submerging, in all its uses. I shall not weary you with an array of authorities, nor conduct you through a tedious examination. I state only that which is well established, and, by intelligent scholars, well understood. Now, in this same Greek language there is a word equally explicit to denote the act of sprinkling, another to designate pouring, another which means to wash, and another signifying to cleanse. These are all common words, as well known to one who can speak Greek, as even the English terms to any one of us. The word which means to immerse is Bantileiv (baptizein), the noun meaning immersion Bártigua (baptisma). We find in our English Bible these terms, not translated, but transferred. Now, are we to be told, that as often as the different inspired writers use the word baptism, or immersion, they mean sprinkling, or pouring, or cleansing? Why will a man, how can a man, venture to deny that the writers of the New Testament meant immerse when they said immerse? It is not because there is any evidence compelling the perversion, for every candid scholar, who knows anything of the controversy upon this point, is aware that not even a plausible objection has as yet been urged against the literal and established sense of the word. I have no heart to touch upon those puerilities, the pretence of a scarcity of water in a city abounding in baths; the pretence of lack of time to accomplish what is reported to have been done, when the notion of such lack has often been shown to be utterly groundless, and when the objection is also equally valid against sprinkling or pouring—for immersion, as a sacred rite, can be decently performed as rapidly as can either of the others : or that other pretence, which never had even a shadow of support, that the term baptise bad become entirely emptied of all significance except to denote a sacred rite; or those other half dozen pretences, yet more absurd, which misguided ingenuity in the interest of party has succeeded during some centuries of effort in inventing and raking together.
“This testimony, from the meaning of the word baptism, is corroborated by the descriptions of the administration of the ordinance. Mark writes, that Jesus was baptised by John into the Jordan.' True, our English version has it'in Jordan, but the Greek is into.' Now, it is quite natural to speak of immersing a man'into' the river, but how would you sprinkle or pour him into the stream? This, however, is the only passage where the preposition into stands in such connection; and if there were any necessity, it might be understood as a condensed mode of saying that Christ went into the Jordan, and was then baptised. But there is no reason for giving it another than its obvious interpretation. The preposition in is the one which commonly connects the word baptism with the element. No other is used, except in the single instance already adduced. Dr. Hovey, in some unpublished notes, says that, besides the instance just noticed, the element of baptism is mentioned sixteen times in the New Testament. In ten of these it is water, and in six it is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is always in the dative, and preceded by ły; water is likewise always in the dative, and preceded by ły in seven cases out of ten.' (See also 1 Cor. x. 2.) Accepting these results of his careful investigation, their bearing can easily be seen. The dative case, which is three times used without the preposition ev, expresses the sphere in which a thing is done, as well as the instrument by which. The preposition év (in), with the dative, must be understood to express the sphere in which,' unless there is some decisive reason for giving it another meaning. Its first, natural, and common meaning is this. It is clear that the idea of immersion is decidedly favoured by these passages, especially when it is remembered that nevér is the Greek words for with or by employed in such connections. It is more natural to speak of immersing in water than of sprinkling or pouring in water. We sprinkle, but not pour, a person with water; or yet more accurately, we sprinkle or pour water upon a person. But the Greek writers never speak of baptising one with or by water, much less of baptising water upon one. With this exactly agrees the circumstance that candidates are said to have gone down into the water. No good reason was ever yet assigned for such an act unless they were to be immersed after they had gone down. But the case is made yet clearer by passages which speak of the selection of certain places for baptism because of the abundance of water. John selected Enon for this reason, and frequent mention is made of the Jordan. There is no one feature of any of the recorded descriptions which does not harmonise entirely with the theory of immersion, nor is there one feature which favours the notion of sprinkling or affusion. Further corroborating evidence is contained in references to the symbolic import of baptism. There are several passages which show that purity was symbolised. There are others entirely different, which show that purity was not the only fact expressed. In Romans vi. 3—5, Paul writes— Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptised into Jesus Christ were baptised into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection. Again, in Col. ü. 12, he speaks of being buried with Christ in baptism,' and also‘raised with him'in it. These passages teach, with all possible plainness, that baptism was understood by the apostle to represent to the eye a burial and a resurrection. This is here declared to be a part of its symbolic design, with no less clearness and force than elsewhere purity is declared to be expressed. But by no use of water is a burial and resurrection exhibited, except by an immersion and an immediate consequent emersion. No man needs any comment upon this plain language of the apostle; but if comment were desired, it is at hand; for the scholarship of the church, past and present, with only the feeblest controversial dissent, has affirmed that in these cases immersion must be presupposed as Christian baptism.
If further evidence were needed it is furnished in the fact that the early church, after the apostles, knew no baptism but immersion, and that, as is well known, the Greek church still retains immersion. Dr. Conant, in his valuable · Critical and Philological Notes,' at the end of his revised version of the gospel by Matthew, has collected in the original Greek of the church fathers their language, as it was that of the New Testament writers, and has translated into English a multitude of passages which show the position of the early church upon this matter. To these he says many others of the same tenor might have been added. What their tenor is will sufficiently appear from a single example, which is a fair representative. Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, in the last half of the fourth century, writes-For as Jesus assuming the sins of the world died, that having slain sin he might raise thee up in righteousness; so also thou, going down into the water, and in a manner buried in the waters, as he in the rock, art raised again, walking in newness of life.' Very many eminent sobolars in churches which practise sprinkling or affusion have borne strong testimony to the fact that originally only immersion was known. The language of Calvin, in his comment upon John iii. 23, is as follows:- From these words it may be inferred that baptism was administered by John and Christ by plunging the whole body under water. . . . . . Here we perceive how baptism was -administered among the ancients, for they immersed the whole body in water.'
This fairly represents the admission of a multitude of this class. Would such and so many men have borne witness against themselves, except compelled to